Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mae Iseri Yamada Interview
Narrator: Mae Iseri Yamada
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ymae-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so we're gonna get started. And the way I start is I talk about the date and where we are. So today's Friday, November 13, 2009, we are in the Densho studio in Seattle. On camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And so today we have Mae Iseri Yamada to interview. And so, Mae, I'm just going to start at the very beginning and ask some basic questions. And the first question is, can you tell me when and where you were born?

MY: In Thomas.

TI: And what was your birth date?

MY: August 22nd.

TI: August 22nd, and what year?

MY: 1918.

TI: Okay. And do you recall, so that makes you ninety-one years old.

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: Do you recall where you were born? Were you born at your home?

MY: At home, uh-huh.

TI: Okay. So a midwife?

MY: No. I really don't know. I don't think so, because I was there when my youngest brother was born, and Mom was alone.

TI: Oh, so not even a midwife? Just the family did it.

MY: Not that I remember anyway.

TI: Okay. And what was the name given to you at birth?

MY: Sadako.

TI: And where did "Mae" come from?

MY: Huh?

TI: And how did you get the name "Mae"?

MY: Oh, "Mae" was just because, going to school, you know, teachers had a hard time with Japanese names, so I think we all got our English names after we started going to school or something.

TI: And do you remember who gave you that name or how "Mae" was chosen?

MY: No, I don't.

TI: So you don't recall who gave it to, whether it was your older sibling or if it was a teacher?

MY: Well, I had five, four older brothers and an older sister, so any one of them, maybe. [Laughs]

TI: So at some point, though, they started calling you Sadako -- oh, I'm sorry, Mae.

MY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: And so you talked about older brothers and sisters, why don't we talk about that now? Can you go through, 'cause I know from previous conversations, you had quite a large family. So why don't you tell me your siblings in birth order.

MY: Okay. Oldest one is Tom.

TI: And about how much older was Tom?

MY: Ten years.

TI: Okay.

MY: And then Mike, Mitsuo. He was 1909, yeah, Tom was '7, he was '9, and then Mun was... actually, I can't remember the next two, Mun and Masato. And Alice was two years older than I was, so she was born in 1916. And then I was born in August of 1918, and George was born in April of 1920. Dan was born in October of '22, and Gengo was born in 1925... Gengo, and Oscar was, let's see... golly, I can't even remember the year.

TI: That's okay. So after, Gengo, was it Gengo?

MY: Gengo, uh-huh.

TI: And then Oscar.

MY: Uh-huh, and then Carl and Bill.

TI: And so I heard there were two girls?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: You and Alice.

MY: Okay, so there should be ten brothers. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah. Tom, Mike, Mitsuo...

MY: No, Mitsuo, Mitsuo and Mike are the same person.

TI: Okay, same. Then Masato?

MY: Manabu is before that, Mun.

TI: Okay. And then...

MY: Masato.

TI: Masato. George, Dan, Gengo, Oscar, Carl and Bill.

MY: Uh-huh. Not enough or too many? [Laughs]

TI: Wow. You know, as I go through this and I look at this, so ten boys and two girls. Back then, was there... what's the right word? Preference in terms of whether or not farmers wanted boys or girls back then? Was there ever kind of a sort of gender preference?

MY: Well, I don't know. I really don't know. I think they would have rather had the boys to work on the farm, although my dad had a grocery store, too, so that the farm was very small, you know. By the time they got going through high school, they were out working away from home already. I think Dad had a vision before even we grew up.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's go to your father next. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was born?

MY: Matahichi.

TI: I'm sorry, one more time?

MY: Matahichi.

TI: Matahichi. And where, where was he from?

MY: Kumamoto.

TI: And what do you know about your father's family in Kumamoto?

MY: Well, Dad was, he was an orphan. When he came here, he was sixteen, and he was already orphaned. So he had a rough start to begin with, I guess. And he came to Seattle in 1900, and then from what I could gather from what I'd been reading, he was in Seattle working in the restaurants and hotels cooking and washing dishes or whatever. So I was just wondering where he learned how to cook turkey and things like that for the holidays. Because every year, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Dad would do the cooking, you know, and Mom would do New Year's. I couldn't understand, why did Dad do all the holiday cooking, and I found out that he had worked in the restaurants around Nihonmachi, I suppose, and then he worked for a Caucasian family in South Park. And so he lived with a family, so then he learned how to do the American cooking there, and then Mom did the New Year's cooking.

TI: Now, how did your father meet your mother?

MY: It was arranged, I guess. 'Cause he came in 1900, and my mom came in 1907.

TI: And did your father go back to Japan to get married, or did she just come?

MY: No, he was here. He came in 1900, I guess.

TI: And where was your mother from?

MY: Kumamoto.

TI: Going back to your father, how would you describe him? What kind of personality, what was he like?

MY: Well, he kind of laid down the law to us, you know, what was expected of us. But generally he was supposed to be short and fat and jolly, and he loved to sing and dance and take part in shibais and things like that. And I don't know why they picked him out, but he was always the maid, you know, jochuusan, great big rosy cheeks and kind of a girl's wig.

TI: Oh, so these plays, these Japanese plays, he would dress up as a woman.

MY: Yeah.

TI: And play that. And kind of a comedic role, kind of?

MY: Yeah. And he liked to, he liked to have fun. He liked to have everybody join in and sing and dance with him. And so it seemed like he ended up with the jochuusan, or whoever happened to the comedian in the shibai.

TI: Oh, good, that's interesting. And the shibai, where did you guys have these performances?

MY: Oh, at the church, you know. In fact, I remember, I think about twice a year, they would have a shibai and stuff at the church.

TI: This is in Thomas?

MY: Yeah, White River Buddhist church.

TI: Okay, White River Buddhist church.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Okay, same question about your mother. How would you describe your mother?

MY: Well, she was, she went pretty well with what Dad said. She was very supportive of our, you know, whatever came along. So 1928, I think it was, Dad had the grocery store. And so I remember them pulling a great big shed down from someplace and parking it right next to the highway, and it was a warehouse, and that was Dad's warehouse for the grocery store. So before that, he worked for a hakujin...

TI: Right, yeah, so let me go back a little bit. And we were talking a little bit, I was asking a little bit about your mother, and you mentioned how she kind of did what your father said. But personality-wise, how would you describe her?

MY: Oh, she was.. I don't know. I don't ever remember her getting real mad or anything, raising her voice or anything like that. I don't know how she managed, but she was quite even-tempered, and we always had a lot of company, so she was always busy, you know.

TI: Yeah, with so many children, that would have kept her really busy.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So let's talk a little bit about your father's work now. So we're in Thomas, Washington, which is kind of a rural, more farming community. So what kind of work did your father or your family do in Thomas?

MY: Well, right after Dad came, they went to Sumner and had a farm in Sumner. And then eventually, just a few years later, probably around 1912 or '13, they moved towards, back towards Thomas and then I got acquainted with this Mr. Leonard who had this grocery store. Well, it's gone now, but it would be right on the crossroads of 227 and... golly, that road that runs alongside the railroad track there toward the old church?

TI: Yeah, I don't know my streets.

MY: I don't even know the name of the street, whether it was a number or a name. And then, let's see.

TI: So he met this Mr. Leonard, and did he help your father get started in some way?

MY: Yeah, he hired him. And the fact that he understood both English and Japanese was a big addition to his advancing himself. So I can remember some of the ladies that were there at the time, and they'd say, well, "We'd go to the grocery store, and, of course, there weren't very many cars then," you know. And this one particular lady, she's Dutch, and her hair was just fiery red, you know, and she had a bun up here. And she was loud, you could hear her from anyplace. She just loved to talk and laugh. And she said, "Oh, yes, I remember your father." She says, "We walked from the west valley and then came across to the Thomas grocery." She says, "I would get so busy talking that I would forget what my husband told me to ask for." And so she says, "Your dad would say, 'Oh, that's okay,'" and so she said he'd go around opening up all the bottles and containers and let her smell it, so that she could choose what she was supposed to get, you know. So she says, "He saved my life," she says. "I didn't have to go home and find out again what I needed and buy what I needed."

TI: So it sounds like your father was really good with customers.

MY: Yeah.

TI: So they would come in, feel comfortable talking with him, he was really patient, so he would go around and open things up so they could try to jog their memories.

MY: Yeah.

TI: And you mentioned his ability to speak both Japanese and English. How did he pick up English?

MY: Well, we started talking about that, and I think it was probably right after he came. He spent time in Seattle before he went to Sumner, and two or three years there or so, he was probably on the streets of Nihonmachi and that area. And I don't know where else he would have learned it. I never spoke Japanese to my dad in my life, you know. My mother would say, "Mitomonai," you know, she says, "At least talk Japanese to your dad when we have company." Well, heaven sakes, when you talk to him all your life, how can you talk to anybody in another language that you never spoke to him? So us kids, I don't think there's any one of us that can say we spoke to Dad in Japanese.

TI: So back at the house when you grew up, English was pretty much the language you used?

MY: Yeah. Except, thank goodness for my mom, she refused to speak English. Because she said, she says, "It would be easy enough for me to learn, because you kids won't, you don't want to speak Japanese." But she said, "If I don't speak Japanese," she said, "you wouldn't have any culture of Japan left." So when you think about it now, and think, boy, she was really thinking ahead when she was trying to get us in, turn us in the right direction.

TI: And so when your mother would speak Japanese to you, would you speak Japanese back to her?

MY: Yeah. People think it's kind of odd, but then that's the way it was. Mom just, no, she's not gonna... so we would, us kids, we would say, "Mom, if you would talk English, we wouldn't have to speak Japanese." And she said, "Oh, that's the general idea." She said, "That's why I won't speak English."

TI: I think you're right, so that was wise. Otherwise, you wouldn't have learned...

MY: Yeah, otherwise we wouldn't be speaking any Japanese. She was way ahead of us and we didn't know it, I guess. [Laughs]

<End Segment 5> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So we're talking about your father, so he's working in the grocery store with Mr. Leonard. And eventually, did he, like, get a small farm or talk about your...

MY: Well, I don't remember what year it was, but Mr. Leonard went on vacation to California, and he was killed in an automobile accident. And so it was a matter of whether somebody could take over the store or close it up. So I guess Dad decided he's going to take a chance and run the store for a while. He ran that store for a while, and until about 1928, I think. Then he opened his own store. He used the garage for that store 'til he could make up enough money to build a store in front of the house.

TI: Now, why would, like in 1928, so he's running Mr. Leonard's grocery store, why would he switch from that store to his own store?

MY: Well, the majority of the employees were Caucasian. So I guess there was a Mr. Johnson there that he introduced us to him, and his wife's name was Maude, and she was the bookkeeper. And so he would always say, "This is Mr. Johnson, and his wife Maude." Isn't there some kind of a story about a Maude? I can't think of what it was now. But I think there's some kind of a story. Well, in fact, there's a picture of Dad and Mom and Dad's cousin in a wagon, taken at the Puyallup Fair in 1907, you know. And the poor horse is a, dragged out, poor horse, pulling that wagon, and it says alongside, it says, "And her name was Maude." So that's where "Maude" came in. But I don't know, makes you wonder where all these things came from.

TI: Yeah, interesting. But when your father transitioned in 1928 from, originally, the Leonard store to his own, did the Leonard store keep running with other people?

MY: Yeah, it kept running, but I don't remember how long it went. Because gradually, Mr. Johnson moved to Kent, and he opened a hardware store. And so I don't, I don't remember when they closed up the grocery store. It's funny how you remember certain things, it's clear, and it seemed like it just dropped out of the picture, you know.

TI: Yeah. Well, in terms of customers, when your father opened his store, were they pretty much the same customers as before?

MY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: So many of them just moved over to your father's store.

MY: Uh-huh. Then Dad started delivering groceries, so then it was mostly Japanese. See, like in those good old days, Japanese farmers were clustered in one big ranch, you know, like Fisher's, I think they had 90 or 100 acres. And so he split it up among four or five families. So the residential area would be about maybe five farmhouses in like a block, you know. And so that's the way the majority of 'em went. Of course, Japanese couldn't buy the, buy the land anyway at the time. So that's the way they accommodated 'em, I guess.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So you were just starting to describe, when your father first started, how he bought a shed down by the highway, that was kind of the warehouse for the store. Tell me what the store looked like.

MY: Well, it's just, you think about it now, it looks like a regular old store that you find in a museum. Like I don't know if you've been to Auburn Museum, but that reminds me a lot of it, because there's all these canned goods, and then telephone hanging on the wall. And I'm wondering lately if that was the phone that my dad had in the store. Because when the war broke out, they left everything in a shed. In fact, Dad had even brought the old post office boxes down there. And then when we came back, they had the dojo there and everything, so all this stuff that, from the grocery stores tucked in that barn. And then in 1928, they started the dojo there, so then they had to take all the mailboxes and all that stuff out and throw it away.

TI: Because they needed the space for the dojo, so they had...

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: But going back to the store, so it's like an old country store, like, wood floors, counters, shelves with lots of canned goods. And if you thought of just like a typical day, how many people would come through the store? How crowded was it?

MY: I have no idea. I have no idea. I know that, I know people would come and go. Well, it was actually, could have been an all-nighter because, surprisingly, people would forget to buy bread or something and they'd come at nine o'clock at night and want to, you know, so one of us would take the key and go down and open up so they could buy bread or whatever.

TI: So the, your house, was that, like, attached to the store?

MY: It was right behind the house, I mean, right behind the store.

TI: So describe the house now. You had a large family, I'm curious, how large was the house, like how many rooms?

MY: Oh, it was big. I mean, oh, not a lot of pictures, but, well, it had to house all of us. By the time the boys got high school age or coming out of high school, they were starting their own business, so they had bought a gas station with a house attached, so that moved a couple of 'em out. And then as the Niseis grew older, the farmers became more independent, and they had somebody to drive 'em to the store. So naturally, grocery store like my dad's would naturally start slumping because they could, of course, go to the chain stores and get the groceries much cheaper. But...

TI: But going back just to the house, so, like, how many bedrooms did the house have?

MY: One, two, three, four... five.

TI: And so your parents had one, one bedroom, and then I'm guessing you and your sister had another bedroom, and then the boys shared the other rooms?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: And like how large was, would you have a large dining room where everyone ate together?

MY: Yeah. Well, when we were kids, the kitchen was quite big. And they had, oh, in those days, they called it a parlor and a living room. So the part, dining room would be right behind... I don't know why, but they had a door, wall, between the kitchen and the dining room. And then there was another, it was part of the architecture, I guess. That separated the living room and the dining room and the living room, you know. I remember, well, it seemed like every holiday and everything, Mom would, she was quite handy. Or my dad was clumsy and couldn't do it or something. [Laughs] But she would find old lumber or something and build a table, what is it, 1x6 or 1x4 or whatever, they latched together like this, you know.

TI: So your mother would do it?

MY: My mother, uh-huh.

TI: That's unusual.

MY: Yeah. I don't know whether it was because she didn't mind doing it or because she couldn't wait for Dad to get to it. [Laughs]

TI: So she was handy with tools, she could make...

MY: Oh, yeah. In fact, the kitchen, the kitchen cabinets and everything, my mom built it all.

TI: Do you know where she learned how to become so handy?

MY: No, I don't know where she learned it, but I guess she figured, you know, Dad wasn't very handy with tools, so she had to do it if she wanted it, I guess.

TI: Oh, that's interesting.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: When you're growing up, now, in this family, what were some of the chores or responsibilities you had as a young girl?

MY: I think I was cheated. [Laughs] Because, see, my sister lived 'til she was fifteen, and she got... I don't know what it is, but it was a very ugly form of TB. And so she was only sick for twelve, ten days. And she died within twelve days of becoming sick. And I never could understand exactly what it was, but it had a, kind of a connotation that it was kind of like TB, the basic disease, had something to do with TB. And she was gone within twelve days, and so I was out in the field with my mother and my second oldest brother, working out in the fields all the time. And suddenly she died, so then I'm in the house and taking care of all of it. I have to cook and wash and take care of the house for what he was, whatever he was working on.

TI: Oh, because prior to that, your older sister would help your mother probably in the house doing all these things.

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: Going back to your sister's death, so she died at fifteen, you were two years younger so you were about thirteen?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: And you, I'm guessing, were pretty close to her, because you were pretty close in age and there was only two girls. So tell me what, how that affected you at such a young age to have your older sister die.

MY: Well, I don't know. I suppose it's like any kid, you just feel like, "Well, why do I have to do all the work?" you know. And to me, it was like, she stays at home and takes care of the kids and cooks, you know. But I was out in the field with my older brother, and then coming home and then she would insist that I had to help her with the dishes. And I would rebel because I would say, "Well, I worked out there all day with Mike and Mom," I said, "why should I have to help you? You don't come out in the field and help me when, in the afternoon." And so, but then that didn't matter, I had to help with the housework, too.

TI: Do you recall the reaction of your parents when your sister died, how that was for them?

MY: Well, it really hit 'em, because she'd never been sick, never had any serious illness besides maybe a cold or flu or something that ran with the time of the year. And the usual kids' diseases, so that really, it was really hard to take when she passed away. Well, then my brother, brother older than her, had pleurisy. And I can remember him coming home from school and driving to Kent about maybe twice a month to go to the doctor, you know. And apparently that went on for quite a while, then my sister died suddenly, and I guess they never could get the connection. TB was hard to find at the time. So then they found out that he had TB, and people are cruel, you know. You start thinking about it, and it was just about that time that the King County TB Association had got Dad involved and wanted to start this scratch test, TB scratch test and stuff. There were people that were... oh, I don't know what you would... thoughtless or something to say that, "Just because he's got a kid that died of TB, he wants the rest of us to have it, too." Because the King County, King County TB Association came out and examined all the kids and gave 'em the tests and everything. And so, but then, on the other hand, if they'd stop and think about it, if it hadn't been for that, there would have been dozens of people who would have died from TB. Because there was a family that had a daughter and a mother in one family, and oh, half a dozen families that had lost a parent and a child or a couple of kids that died because of TB.

TI: But the scratch test was given to, I guess, one, to see if the rest of the kids had TB?

MY: No, it was open to everybody, you know.

TI: Right. But they were trying, they were, I guess, more interested, or they wanted to check you and the other kids out because your sister and your brother had TB.

MY: Yeah. So we were, we were... not quarantined, but checked by the King County TB Association for two years.

TI: And when you mentioned it was kind of cruel, what was the, kind of the part that was difficult for you when they did this?

MY: Well, just the idea that people would, you know, because my dad was breaking his neck to help the TB Association out to get these tests done, so it would prevent additional heartache on other families. And yet, some of them would say, "Well, just because his kid died of TB, he wants it done so that he's not the only one that had to go through that." (Narr. note: Life has cruel, unthinking folks in it. I've lived it.)

TI: I see.

MY: They say if he would have left them alone, that they wouldn't have discovered the TB. So that in reality says, well, so several people died, so how many more would have died if they hadn't insisted on the community care?

TI: Okay. So there were others who, I guess, questioned your father's motives. That they said the only reason he is interested in stopping TB or checking for TB was because of his family. But actually, he, by doing so, really helped people, all the families.

MY: Yeah. There were several, there were several families that lost a mother and daughter or son or somebody, that had to go to the sanitarium for a year or two years. TB has always been a hard disease to control. 'Cause like my brother, he was in the hospital for about three years, but I never got to go see him. But he always looked so healthy in pictures and things like that, and yet, he survived for about two years... no, one full year after my sister died, and then he died, too. But in the meantime, there were other Japanese kids that had died.

TI: So this was a very difficult time for the family.

MY: Oh, yeah.

TI: Two deaths, two of your, just directly older siblings who died.

MY: Yeah. Then that was '32 or '33, I think.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: You mentioned that, how you used to work out in the fields with your older brother Mike and your, I guess your mother. Describe that. What kind of field work did you do?

MY: Well, everything that was done out in the field was by hand, you know. So you had the hoe, the fork, or the shovel. And then we had some blackberries out there, so that meant pruning them and putting them up on a trellis. So...

TI: Now, were these crops primarily for the family or were these for...

MY: Well, it was for the cannery. So it was only probably three acres or something like that, but you know, it was all hand-done. So it was a time-consuming job. Like I tell the kids, I says, "Well," I said, "you know nowadays you go out and buy a head of cauliflower, very pretty and nice and everything," and I said, back in those days, they would plant the cauliflower and then they would have a piece of tarpaper, about maybe two inch square or four inch square. And it would have a hole in the middle and it would have a cut in here to put it around the stem of the cauliflower. And then you had to go around putting lime, I think it was. You didn't want to touch that, it's hard on your skin. And they took a teaspoon and spread that around each plant. Can you imagine?

TI: And that was to prevent, what, slugs and things?

MY: Bugs.

TI: Bugs to get on there? And then the tarpaper was to keep it nice and white?

MY: Well, the tarpaper would hold the lime, and that would keep the bugs off of the plant.

TI: I see. And that had to be done with each one?

MY: Uh-huh, we had to do that with each one. And it was cauliflower, and they had to go around and, I don't know how long after they planted, but they have to go down through each row to see if there's any sign of a bug in there. And so then when you see a bug, then you break the leaf over, break it so that it covers that. And that retained the whiteness of the cauliflower.

TI: I didn't realize that that took so much work.

MY: Yeah. You know, you don't realize it until you start studying and hashing it out, or somebody asks you a question. I don't know.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So when you're growing up in Thomas, so you had to do a lot of work, but for fun, what are some of the fun things you did growing up?

MY: Well, picnics with footraces and all the stuff that goes with it. So they would be, that would be one of the things we looked forward to, because otherwise, there wasn't much time that the families could get together and go to the beaches and things.

TI: And so when you say picnics, whose picnics were these?

MY: Well, the Japanese school picnic and kenjinkai picnic and church picnic. So the moms would fix all this sushi and all that stuff, and my mom would make, probably in the summertime, sometimes there were picnics Saturday and Sunday, and she was making the bento, you know. I just would marvel at how she took care of all that, you know. So then she'd say, of course, it was always the single students, or the Nihongakkou students, it was usually a student from Japan, you know. So a lot of times, we were cooking extra for them to stop by for dinner and then take a bath. So one sensei, he was a stepson to Reverend Aoki. And he used to talk about it -- he passed away several years ago -- but he used to tell me, he said, "I don't know how your mother or your dad can stand all of us bumming off of you and going to ofuro and chazuke and holidays and things like that, how did they do it? How did you do that?" And I says, "Well," I says, "that's the way it was. I hope you appreciate it." It got to the point where we became real good friends so I could joke with him. And he says, "Yeah, I appreciate it. I really appreciate it now more than I did then." Because we would go to their house maybe once or twice a week sometimes, or maybe once a month or something like that. And always for New Year's, we were there, and then he said, I would have a problem, and he said, "I would ask your dad, and he'd say, 'Well," he said, 'well, have another drink.'" [Laughs] "And he'd say, 'Well, why don't you go take a bath?'" So he said, "I'd go take a bath and come back, and then your dad was pouring me another drink, and then finally, it's getting to be about nine o'clock, I'm looking at my watch, and oh, botsu botsu kaeran to," you know. And he says, "Well, by the way, Matsukuma-sensei, remember you were asking me this?" He said, "If I were you, I would do it like this." So he said, "Then I'd take a big sigh of relief and take your dad's advice and go home." So he says, "Those are the things that you just don't forget, you know." So Matsukuma-sensei passed away maybe four or five years ago. And the strange part of it, of their friendship, his friendship, was that he was, graduated from University of Washington, I think, in 1938, then he went to UCLA and got a degree down there, and he was working. But what happened... I remember it was after the war, anyway, and he called from Seattle and he says, "Do I have the right family?" And I says, "Yeah," and I says, "who is this?" And he said, "Matsukuma." And I thought, "My gosh," I said, "where are you?" And so then I invited him over for lunch and we talked and this and that. And then, so we were in touch now and then, and then when... would go to Hawaii for vacation, and so I'd tell him, "Stop and see the Matsukumas, okay?" And she says, "Okay." And she didn't know what for, but just because Mom said so, I guess. [Laughs] So then he would be good to her, too.

TI: Well, so it's just amazing to think of these connections, relationships, that your father really fostered, what, seventy, eighty years ago that still exist today. So it sounds like your father really appreciated these connections.

MY: Yeah, and it was the same way with the boys. They'd bring people that were customers or friends, or friends' friends, you know. And my mom would, wieners were the favorite thing, and she'd fry wieners and she'd put it out. And if you fry a wiener, you try to eat that with a chopstick, and she'd say, "Oh, you're a pretty good Japanese if you eat fried wieners with chopsticks." So there are some guys that remember that and they'll come back and tell me. And I said, "Yeah, I've heard my mom use that one on some of these guys," and he said, "Yeah."

TI: And these were other Niseis?

MY: No, hakujins.

TI: Hakujin, okay. So that they could...

MY: Friend of my brother's.

TI: I see.

MY: And then...

TI: And, of course, you would then, she would say that in English to them. So she would talk English to --

MY: Yeah, my mom would speak broken English to them.

TI: Oh, that's good.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Earlier you were talking about some of the events, like picnics. And today, the White River Buddhist Temple has a large Obon festival. Did they have that back in those days?

MY: Yeah.

TI: Describe what that was like. Was it pretty much like it is today, or...

MY: No, it was terrible. [Laughs] There was no lawn or anything, and the weeds just grew wild, you know. And then for Obon, they tried to mow it down, or get a scythe and just trim it down so that people could walk through it. And, of course, I hated garter snakes, and there were garter snakes all over, so I wouldn't go.

TI: Oh, because during the dance, there would still be little snakes all over.

MY: Yeah, yeah. And my mother would get mad and say, "They don't bother you. They run away from you when you go." And I said, "Yeah, but I don't care." I said, "I don't want to look at those snakes," you know. [Laughs]

TI: But how about in terms of the size of the group? Is it about the same back then as it is today, or how would you compare?

MY: Well, probably, I think the crowd was bigger, but the participation in the dances were not as big because of the, I don't know whether it was instruction or the, there weren't enough people really interested that would participate.

TI: So, you mean, so back then, there wasn't as many dancers but more people, but now there are more dancers?

MY: Oh, yeah, there are so many more dancers now.

TI: And in terms of, like, food and things, was that all part of the festival?

MY: Yeah, well, the mothers were busy making bento and making a couple extra makizushi, 'cause they have friends or something. That was always kind of a fun time for me. I don't know, some people, they resent it all, but I says, "You know, for us kids," I says, "I think that was the most fun time." You get acquainted with different people and then judo tournaments all the time, and shibais in Seattle. I don't know. Of course, like Lotus, they were quite active in shibai, they did things like that ever since I could remember.

TI: And so how common was it for you to come to Seattle back before the war?

MY: Well, it was an all-day trip. We'd have to get up early in the morning and do what we had to do, and then help Mom with the lunches and things. And, of course, Dad was, would invite all these people from the city and Tacoma. They always had extra company for the Obon or shibai.

TI: And so how would everyone get from Thomas to Seattle?

MY: Well, most of 'em had the Model T's or old cars. I can remember when my brother, my third oldest brother was kind of like a handyman, mechanics, and I don't remember, but he'd say, "All you need to fix a Ford," is some kind of wrench or something. [Laughs] And I can remember him telling a friend that the "doggone car won't go up the hill," and he said, "Put it in reverse." It has more power or more traction or something. So I can remember guys driving the car backwards up the hill. And then most of the farmers would have cars and trucks, so they would put the little tiny kids that couldn't walk, they get to ride up the hill. But everybody else had to get off and push the truck up the hill and then, "All right, hurry up and get on," you know. And they'd all jump on and then go down the bottom of the hill and make it coast as far as it would go. And then we had to get off again and push it up the other hill. So it was a long trip to go out to the beach and have a good time.

TI: Especially if you had to go across lots of hills. [Laughs]

MY: Yeah. And there were quite a few hills from, like, where we were, at Thomas. You had to go over Star Lake and Des Moines and down to the beach.

TI: Oh, that's a good story.

MY: Oh, man, that was a lot of work. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: When you think back to Thomas and that area, how many Japanese were living around you? Do you have a sense of how many numbers...

MY: Gosh, I don't know. But it was about two-thirds Japanese. So...

TI: So we're talking about maybe hundreds of Japanese, do you think?

MY: Well, I don't know how...

TI: Like at the White River Buddhist Temple on Sunday, how many people would be there?

MY: Gosh, I don't know. I don't know. But, yeah, they figured that going to the, I worked with the museum quite a bit when they got started, and they estimated that the population was probably two-thirds Japanese.

TI: Okay. Well, so when you think about, you mentioned earlier Japanese language school. So when did you have to go to Japanese language school?

MY: We... oh, I think most of the kids started probably when they were in the second grade at the public school, and they'd go every year 'til they got through high school. If they were lucky enough, the parents would release 'em after grade school, but a lot of 'em went to Japanese school after they were in high school.

TI: And then, like, in a typical class, Japanese language school, how many people were, like, in your class when you went to Japanese language school?

MY: I don't know. I could get the grade school pictures out, and then I could tell. But, well, I don't know, there was quite a few. I think probably the whole class might be thirty-five kids, you know, and there would be maybe six or seven Caucasians. It was pretty well controlled by Caucasian -- I mean, Japanese students.

TI: Okay. That gives me a sense.

MY: So that, I don't know. I could, it would be a lot easier for me to say, "Here, read this," because Stan has been so good about getting out Japanese American articles from the paper for me. And I made copies and I've got 'em in notebooks, some of 'em, most of 'em.

TI: So you've been doing research, and Stan Flewelling has been getting some of these things.

MY: Yeah.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Well, so here's something that's kind of interesting from a historical standpoint. Your oldest brother, Tom, was involved with, at that time, a new organization called the JACL. Do you recall his involvement back then with the JACL?

MY: Well, like he and John Arima and Coco Tsujikawa, so there were four or five families that had big families. And the Isseis were pretty well-represented, too. They were in there to help 'em, whatever they needed to do to get 'em going. And so if you see the convention pictures, you find a lot of Isseis there to help them.

TI: When you think back, do you recall your brother ever saying why it was needed, this new organization?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: And what would he say?

MY: Well, I think he had some headaches to really understand, I think he understood as he grew older what it meant. But I don't know. I don't ever remember my brothers ever saying anything against my dad or my mom for their suggestions or anything. In fact, my dad was so ignorant about athletics, he didn't even know who was playing or what they were playing, but he would go to the games. And he would come home and Mom would say, "Well, how did they do? Did they win?" And he says, "I think so." But that's how much he knew about it, but he was doing it to help promote the activities for the, not JACL, but for the YBA.

TI: Right, but going back to Tom, so he was involved at a time when the JACL became this national organization.

MY: Yeah, he's been in it from the very beginning.

TI: Right, and this concept of, in some ways, creating a network of Japanese American groups throughout the, mostly the West Coast. I was just wondering if he ever thought or talked about why that was a good idea.

MY: Well, you know, it seemed like he was given a lot of responsibilities. He was, he got active in Boy Scouts, and he kept his membership 'til he died, I think, and things like that. But I think most of the brothers were right in there, to whatever the folks thought was good, and keep the organization going. I think Tom was the second national president and committee chairman for the... second national convention, JACL convention was held in Seattle. And so the last few years, I've been, Shea Aoki would call me every once in a while and want to get together about JACL and Japanese community this and that.

TI: Yeah, that was essentially the beginnings of the JACL, so I was curious about it.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: I want to talk, earlier you talked about your father getting involved with things like the TB association. But he was also involved in other organizations, too, in particular, the PTA. Can you tell me a little bit about the PTA in Thomas and what that was?

MY: Well, I don't know how it started, but I know that this friend, she was getting me rides to the museum meetings and things, different parts of the county and this and that. And then she called me one day and she said, "Have you got a picture of your dad?" And I says, "Yeah, lots of 'em." And she says, "Well, I got this article for the 100th anniversary of the Washington State PTA, and Stan helped me get a picture. But," she said, "I want a picture of your dad." And I said, "Yeah, so," I said, "what happened?" And she says, "Well," she says, "there was this thing that said something about you making a remark to the teacher that why weren't you given notices for PTA meetings." I distinctly remember those times, you know, you just felt like you were left out. Because all these hakujin kids were getting the monthly notice to take home. So she walked right by me, you know. And so I finally, I guess I opened my big mouth and she says, "Because Japanese parents don't read and write English." And I said, "Well, my father does." And so then the Washington State PTA acknowledged him as the first and only Japanese man who was president of the PTA.

TI: Oh, so this is interesting. Let me make sure I understand this. So when you were back as a student, you noticed that the Caucasian students would bring home these notices for PTA meetings, but the Japanese kids didn't. And so when you asked about that, the response from your teacher was, "Well, Japanese parents don't..."

MY: Yeah.

TI: And so when you spoke up, what did your father do? Because he became, you said, the first male PTA president (in Washington state), was this the president of the regular PTA, or was it a separate --

MY: It was a Japanese. (Narr. note: The Japanese PTA started in 1928. Out of curiosity, I called the National PTA and was told the Japanese American PTA is the only Japanese American PTA group with the National PTA.)

TI: So your father helped form a new PTA for the Japanese parents?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: And so this was a way for the group to, the parents to become informed about what was happening.

MY: Yeah, so they would exchange programs every month, you know. And you know how Japanese are, when they go out to do something, they were gung ho, refreshments and entertainment and all that. Well, hakujin usually didn't do that. So then when she brought me a copy of the program, then I thought, "Well, gee whiz." So then I took pictures and sent 'em to my mom and my brothers and they says, "Holy cow." [Laughs] And so almost weekly, or monthly, they would have Thomas news in the paper. And there's articles about the beginning of the Japanese PTA group and what kind of programs they exchanged and everything like that. (Around 1929 they sent Miss Nellie Smith, school teacher, to Japan on a trip.)

TI: Okay, so the regular, I mean, kind of, the PTA with Caucasians, and then you had PTA Japanese, they would, I guess, share programs or exchange programs. And I think what I heard was when the Japanese did it, they had a lot more refreshments and things.

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: And going back to it, so this was a fully sanctioned PTA, and your dad was at one point the president, so that meant that he was the very first male or man to run a PTA.

MY: Yeah, so then I got curious, and I called the national PTA. And a lady answered, and she says, "Oh, she says, "well," she says, "why don't you call me back?" she said, "I'll see if I can find out anything." So I called her back, and she says, "Well," she says, "I haven't been able to really dig down deep into this article, this questions you're asking, but," she says, "as far as I can determine with what I've gone through," she says, "there's no other Japanese American PTA group in the whole United States." So I thought, "Well, gosh almighty, it must have taken something for him to be that concerned about the kids that the PTA should be there." And so I tell the kids and my brothers, said, "Well, Dad could really write English and understand, so he was a good go-between."

TI: And so when your father would take these kind of roles, kind of coordinating or leadership roles, how did that make you feel?

MY: Well, I didn't, I thought it was natural, you know. I didn't give it any more than that, that was a natural thing. So it doesn't bother me that much when somebody wants to do something or get something organized. In fact, I've got a piece of the Great Wall of China, you know. And that was given to me in 1932, and this guy, his family lived across the street from us, and he would come home on leave and everything. So I don't really remember that much about it, but he says, "You were just a little kid, huh?" And I says, "Well, it wasn't my fault," and laugh about it. So then after we came back and everything, all of a sudden somebody said, "Well, that's Les Hanvey." And I said, "Les Hanvey?" I says, "He's the one that gave me a piece of the China wall." And then I got his address, so I wrote to him and I apologized to him because I had lost it. Because I had put it with a bunch of my costume jewelry and stuff and put it upstairs because Mom decided, well, she'd just take all the stuff we couldn't take and put it upstairs, and she put a latch on it and locked it up. But then, of course, you know, what the heck, they know we're not, or we can't come back. So whoever lived in the house stole it.

TI: And this was during the war that you did that.

MY: Yeah. So...

<End Segment 14> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: And so before we go there, I want to actually come back to, when you were, again, before the war, what was school like for you? Like just going through junior high school, high school, I mean, how would people describe you as a student?

MY: Not very good. [Laughs] I don't know, I never was a good student, and I hated to go to school. And like Japanese school, I hated it all the more because in the summertime, they'd have Japanese school for three hours a day. But I had to stay home and watch the kids and cook, so I couldn't go. So I missed out on all those six or seven years of Japanese school.

TI: And regular school you didn't like either, you said?

MY: No, so I was never a very good student.

TI: You told me this cute little story that one of your classmates back in Thomas was Gordon Hirabayashi. And that because they oftentimes had you sit in alphabetical order, that you would, with Iseri and Gordon was Hirabayashi, you would sit right behind him sometimes. So do you remember Gordon?

MY: Oh, yeah, yeah. Because, well, you know, we started school together, and then when he was in about the third or fourth grade, he skipped a grade. At the same time George was, my brother George skipped a grade, too. So this is, you know, how many years later, he came to one of these things, and my daughter was there, so I said, "This is my daughter." And he said, "Oh," he says, "I gotta tell you, your mom was so mean." And I said, "Oh, come on, Gordon, that's a bunch of crap," and we'd laugh about it. But yeah, there was things like that that come up once in a while.

TI: So why did Gordon think that you were mean? What did he say?

MY: Oh, that's what he said, he said, "She was mean. She'd stick me with, hit me with a pencil or poke me with a pencil." And I don't recall that at all. [Laughs] It could have happened. Yeah, my mom heard it, she'd say, "Oh, that sounds like you."

TI: That's funny.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so Mae, we're going to start the second hour of the interview. But before we go and talk about World War II, I wanted to see if there was anything else to talk about before the war. And you were actually mentioning school holidays and how today sometimes they have snow days. In Thomas, what kind of school closures or what kind of things happened --

MY: Well, it was usually the floods, because gee, sometimes maybe there'd be two or three floods during the month. And I don't know, nowadays the kids look forward to the snow and stuff, but I said, "That was nothing compared to..." I can remember a time, I think it was even around April already, and the peas were above the ground and they were about that high, and they'd been strung already. And they're just wading in the water, and I said, "My gosh, how is that ever gonna mature?" But it did. (Narr. note: My parents supported all the Nisei activities, so got to attend church and JACL activities since 1935, Northwest and National.)

TI: But describe these floods. So you said sometimes two, three times a month you would have floods?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: And like your farm, your house, which was next to the highway, would that area get flooded?

MY: Well, we were real lucky because we were right at the, I don't know if you know where I'm describing, but there were a couple of bad, real bad curves on that East Highway. And so the one was, there was one that was real sharp, right around the, in front of our place. And so, and the kids would be looking forward to the floods, and I don't ever remember them really closing down on account of the snow, but a flood would come and we were the first ones to go under at the school.

TI: So the school would actually get flooded.

MY: Yeah, the school would go under, and right now they tell me that the Thomas school that stands now is the oldest building in the southern part of the county. So it's a... what do you call... (landmark).

TI: A historical landmark?

MY: Yeah, historical landmark now.

TI: And, but that building, that school...

MY: That brick building, yeah.

TI: Used to get flooded.

MY: Oh, yeah. The school was the first one to go under. So I don't know, times and weather and everything makes a difference, I guess.

TI: Well, I think what, one of things they did was, later on, they put a dam to stop the flooding, and actually, today, there are some concerns that that dam is not that strong, so there might be some additional flooding.

MY: I don't know. I hope they know what they're talking about. [Laughs] But we've never, we've never been flooded out of our house in all the years that I've been around. But there've been times that we've had several families come and stay with us. Because the curve was just beyond, well, probably right on the border of our property there, and then it was intersect like this. And they would come to this corner and just go over the, over the road and go to the other side. So the people on the other side was getting the water and we weren't. We were getting the water, but it never came high enough to get into the house or anything like that.

TI: Okay, so it was like, just on the other side it would get flooded.

MY: Yeah. So the kids think I'm crazy, 'cause every once in a while I'll be talking and I says, "How did these, the older generation figure out exactly where to build that house so that they wouldn't get under water." Because those people, the farmers, they weren't familiar yet, I guess, and that's why they went under water so bad.

TI: Oh, so the people who thought about that would, they wouldn't know where to build.

MY: Yeah. They would build a house...

TI: Like, for instance, your house was always, would never get flooded.

MY: Yeah, never flooded inside. Maybe it would come to maybe the first landing of the first step or something, but it never got into the house.

TI: Now, when you had floods like this, would everything just come to a standstill, people couldn't do anything, you just have to wait it out?

MY: Uh-huh. And so, and so some houses are, you'd go visiting afterwards or something, and they'll say, "Well, that's the one from last year." Because apparently, they just can't eliminate, they can't get rid of the stains on the wall. "And so, and this is from two years ago," or something. So I said, "For crying out loud," I says, "you made your, you can talk about the flood by just looking at the mark in the house, huh?" And they said, "Yeah." 'Cause that watermark just doesn't disappear with painting or anything.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. Yeah, because that was in the flood plains, so they'd get a lot of that.

MY: I hope they got it right.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Okay, so I'm going to move on and get to the war years. And so December 7, 1941, do you remember, can you recall that day?

MY: Oh, yeah.

TI: And why don't you describe that day for me?

MY: Well, my brother, oldest brother, was married in 1938, and he married a Caucasian. Of course, you can imagine what kind of commotion went on then, the oldest son in the family, and he's married a hakujin, and oh, brother. But my brother was determined, he says, "Well, she said she would do whatever it took for her to be a responsible wife," and this and that. And she grew up quite poor, too, so she knows what it was to be poor, that's for sure. And so...

TI: And so when you say "caused a commotion," so were your parents against...

MY: No, my parents, they never outwardly said it, but I'm sure that probably like a lot of parents, that, "Well, gee, he's the oldest and I wish he would marry a Japanese." But I'm sure that my parents thought of that, too, but they never antagonized the thing. She said, "Well, this is America, and I guess this is the way it's gonna be." And I remember him bringing Jimmy Sakamoto over one time to talk to my folks, too. But she was always so good, she used to... I had these three younger brothers, and she had a niece and a nephew that was about the same age. And so I think it was an Oldsmobile two-door, and so she, there must have been eight or nine of us crammed into this car, and I remember particularly at one time going to the, she'd take us to Point Defiance or Woodland Park. So her mother would be along, too, and stopped at a stoplight in Tacoma when we were on our way to Point Defiance. This car right alongside, it was a Caucasian, of course, and they were looking, and back and forth, they were talking and said, "Well, I hope you get your damn eyes full." [Laughs]

TI: Get your eyes what? Full?

MY: Get your eyes full, you know, because they were just looking at us from across the thing. But Tom said, "Well, she said she'll do anything that's expected of her," so it just worked out real good. She was very good.

TI: So were there ever... oh, I guess, problems or difficulties, race problems between whites and Japanese?

MY: Not for us. At least, if there was, the folks never talked about it, I guess. I never got into it, anyway. So they're very lucky that way.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Okay, so we were talking about December 7, 1941, and then you were saying about Tom, and so what was going on?

MY: Well, he had just, he had his shovel, you know. It was still pitchfork and shovel days, you know, and he was out there, he had bought a piece of property kind of kitty-corner from the folks' house. And so he and his friends had dug out a formation for the basement of the house, and that was December the 7th, the morning of December the 7th. And then at noon, everybody got this thing about, oh, war's starting this and that. So then Tom picked up his shovel and went home. And so he never did get it built. So that hole in the ground sat there and then somebody would say, "Well, some hakujin remarked about that," so for kids, because, "What if a kid fell in there when it rained and drowned in there?" or something like that. Other than that, I don't remember, really remember any hostility or anything. In fact, somebody said something and I said, "Yeah," I said, "there's one Japanese family in here, the boys grew up together," and I said, "two of the older boys got brides from Japan." And I said, "They both lost their wives within one year, they both went back to Japan within one year." And I said, "Tom was getting ready to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary right after Mom's birthday party," after she got to be about eighty-nine, the boys would have a birthday party for her every year. And then like the ninetieth and the hundredth, then they have a great big party. And my mom would say, well, she says, "I'm so grateful that all these kids can get together," and I think last count we had over 125 people there. Of course, she was gone by then, but before that time, she'd say, she says, "You know," she says, "with all these kids and all these grandkids," she says, "we all get together like this." She said, "I know that they're arguing about something and they're teasing each other," but she said, "there's never been kids, grandkids, great-grandkids that got into a brawl." She said, "They're always teasing and they're laughing and this and that. There's never been a fight among them." (Narr. note: When we argued when we were kids, she would say, "Talk in Japanese, so I can understand and settle your problem.")

TI: So that must have been, made her, a good feeling to have such a large extended family that was close. Well, so going back to December 7th, so Tom dug this big hole on that day, he goes home that afternoon, what happens next after that?

MY: Well, I don't know. I stayed in, my brother Mun had this gas station across the street from the house, and so I was standing there, and they had these big huge show windows. And so the boys, Mun was married and he lived in the back of the gas station. And so I just stayed there and I was watching out the window, watching these convoys go by. And it just dawned on me all of a sudden that, gosh almighty, all this time they were growing up and the kids were growing up, when the army convoys used to come by there, we used to sit alongside the road and wave at the soldiers. And I thought, god, I wonder what they'd do to us now. You don't know what kind of mental attitudes some of those soldiers got. So I often thought about that, but nothing happened. You hear about different parts of the country, they've had some hostilities and things. But I got to knock on wood, how fortunate we were that nothing happened. But December the 7th, they came and got my dad out of bed. So, you know, I still have no idea...

<End Segment 18> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So when you say they came and got your Dad, so describe it a little bit more. So this is December 7th, the day of the bombing. Who got your father?

MY: Well, he was already in bed, seven-thirty, like he always did. And then, so the irony of it all was that the... of course, I guess it was that way, must have been that way with all the towns. But the mayor of Kent... there wasn't a mayor, it was a town council or something. But he and a guy from the FBI came and picked my dad up, you know. (Narr. note: An FBI agent and Mr. Wooden (judge) came and got Dad out of bed.)

TI: So the man from the town council, he was there to show the FBI where your father lived, to help direct them?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: Now, your father was such a well-known figure in the community. Did the town councilperson tell the FBI person that? That your father...

MY: I don't know, I wasn't there. I was still across the street looking out the window.

TI: Oh, okay. So you didn't even know this was happening.

MY: No, I didn't know what happened 'til I went home about nine o'clock, I think. And I was gonna lock the front door, and she said, "Don't lock the door." And I said, "Why?" She said, "Well, the FBI men and (Mr. Wooden)..." Became, eventually became the first mayor. But she said, "Mr...." oh, whatever his name was, "and an FBI man came and took Dad and took him out, he had to get out of bed and they took him. And so I'm thinking maybe he'll be back tonight," so she said, "Don't lock the door." But then I had my doubts. For them to come and pick him up out of bed, then take him in. And then I didn't know how many days it was after that.

TI: Well, going back to that, when your mother told you this, what was, was she worried or concerned, or how would you describe her?

MY: Yeah. She was concerned, but you'd never know that it was that big a deal. She had a way of taking care of those emergencies, I guess. (Narr. note: I'm sure she was worried but she didn't fuss or carry on in front of us. Thank goodness for Mom!)

TI: And what was your feeling when your mother told you this?

MY: Well, I couldn't believe it, you know. I don't know that I said anything, I just went to bed wondering what Mom's logic was that Dad would be back.

TI: And so when this was happening, none of your older brothers were there or anything like that.

MY: No. So then it went on, the boys played poker all night. They didn't play 'til midnight, they played all night. And sometimes they played Saturday and run into Sunday, you know. And so then whoever won had to buy breakfast, so somebody had to go to the grocery store and get sausage or bacon or whatever and cook breakfast. Then they'd stay the rest of the day again. There was no place to go, nothing to do. At least they weren't gonna go anyplace to create any problems or anything.

TI: Oh, so on December 7th, the day after, people were just hanging out, kind of, around the house?

MY: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Well, so going back to your father, when he didn't show up the next day or the day after, how did you find out what had happened to your father?

MY: Well, Mike came home and he said, "Hey," he says, "you better go to the immigration station and find out about Dad." And I said, "What do you mean?" and he says, "Well, they said that they took the old folks to the immigration station, so Dad should be there." And I said, "Well, why do I have to go?" I said, "Why don't you guys, one of you guys go?" And here he said that, "Maybe they wouldn't be as rough on a woman as they would a man going in there." So I said, "Okay." So I guess I had Mike's car that day and went in. And it's funny how you remember things, and the harder you try to remember, the worse it gets. But I don't remember whether I went on the East Valley Highway or the West Valley Highway or came on 99, and I don't know how I went home either. I just know that I was there. And this guy had one of these three-cornered hats on, and I walked in there and, of course, it's a big, official building like immigration station, you don't treat it lightly. And I went in and this guy was standing there and he said, "What do you want?" And I said, "Well," I was trying to pick my words real carefully, and I said, "Well, my brother said there's a rumor that you have the first-generation... the FBI came and picked my father up." And I says, "They sent me in to see if I could find out anything, if he was okay and where he was." He says, "So who told you?" and I said, "Well, it's just a rumor and just what we heard from the people outside." And he said, "Okay," he said, "wait a minute." And so he went to check someplace, and he came back and he said, "Yes, he's here." He says, "You can have five minutes with him." So we got in an elevator and went up to whatever floor it was, second floor, third floor, I don't know what. So there's this guard yelling, "Iseri," and so then all of a sudden I can hear this echo in the background, bunch of men's voices going, "Iseri, Iseri." And so I don't know how many people were there or what, but so then Dad came out. Of course, he hadn't changed clothes or shaved or anything, so I don't know that it had, could have been more than a couple days (or less. He said he was the second person to be detained. I would like to know who was the first).

TI: And describe, what was he wearing when you saw him?

MY: Well, he was wearing what he wore when he left home. (He looked tired.)

TI: But he was able to change from his nightclothes to...

MY: No, uh-uh.

TI: Oh, so was he wearing his nightclothes?

MY: He just had his pants. So I said, "Well," I said, "how's things going?" And he said, "Well, I'm okay, how about the rest of you guys?" And I said, "Well, everybody's fine. They're worried about you because they didn't know what they did with you." And he said, "No, I'm fine," but he says, "next time, bring me a couple dollars so I can buy a..." they didn't even have toothpaste or soap for 'em. So he says, "I could use some kozukai for soap and everyday things, toothpaste." So then he says, "Well, five minutes is up." So I said, "Well, Dad," I said, "I didn't think about bringing any money," but I said, "I've got five dollars here. I'll leave that with you and then next time I come in, I'll bring some money so you can get your necessities." And so I tried to hand him this five dollar bill, and that son of a gun, he just grabbed it out of my hand and he said, "You better let me give it to him." He took that five dollar bill and wrinkled it all up, and then he straightened it all out, and then he took it and turned it the other way and scrunched it up again, straightened it out, and handed it to my dad. I can never forget that. That was so disgusting, so insulting, you know, to think that... and the more I thought about it, I says, "That ignorant so and so," I said, "he didn't even look on that five dollar bill to see if I'd written a message on there. If it was anybody else, or if it was me," I said, "the first thing I would do is to look at it and see if they had written something. And if they were smart enough, maybe they had a secret code or something." But he didn't look at it at all, he just crumpled it up and handed it to him. That's why the older I get, the more I think of that incident and it makes me madder than heck, to think that the people think you're so darn dumb that...

TI: So when you think about that five-minute meeting, can you recall how you felt when you saw your dad and some of those feelings or thoughts?

MY: Well, he looked kind of tired, you know, and, of course, his beard is growing and everything. Five minutes is not much time to really discuss anything except to tell him not to worry, everything was okay. But I don't remember coming out of there or where I parked the car or anything, isn't that strange? I know I was there, but I don't remember parking the car or getting back in it to come home. Because they already had this three-mile limit on us. So by the time I crossed that bridge, that Kent bridge, I was already out of the line. So I'm thinking all the time, if somebody's ornery enough to pick me up, I wonder what they'd do to me, you know. But I came home without any problems.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And then after that, what further contact did you have with your father?

MY: I didn't have any more contact with him until he came home, I mean, he came to Pinedale, came back in June. And I guess other people had it worse, there were some that didn't come back 'til after the war.

TI: And so how did you find out what happened to your father after the immigration building? Where did he go and how did you know?

MY: Well, then they gave him a limit of two correspondence a week. But then December the 29th, I think, is when they transferred him to Montana. And so in his letter, he wrote that, "I'm thinking that I'm going by the Katos and the Hamadas' house now, because they live right along the railroad track. And he says, "I don't know where we're going, but we're on a train." And, of course, later he found out where. And he says, "It's by the, just by looking at the time and kind of guessing," he says, "I'm guessing that I'm, the train is passing through Thomas." And what a feeling that must have been, to know that he's getting shipped away from there and he didn't know where he was going, and to begin with, he didn't know why.

TI: And when you mentioned the correspondence, twice a week, did he correspond in English or Japanese?

MY: English.

TI: By any chance, did you guys keep those letters?

MY: Yeah, I did. I've got a lot of those in the original Densho book that Sheri got those pictures. I don't know who developed them, but... (Narr. note: I think I have most of them written in Japanese and English.)

TI: Yeah, I'd like to, I'll have to take a look at those. So with your father gone, how did, what did the family do to cope with your father gone? What happened next?

MY: Well, the older brothers were around, so that wasn't any problem as far as everyday necessities and getting along was concerned. So... (Narr. note: In hindsight, thanks to Mom's strength, I don't know how she held herself together.)

TI: How did it impact the younger kids? I mean, you're kind of like right in the middle, and so you had the older siblings to help take care of things. What about the younger ones? How did all this affect them?

MY: I don't know. I asked my brothers that, and they says, "Well, we were just little kids, and we just..." my brother says, "well, I guess we just figured this is the way it was, so we just had to go with it day by day as we came along." And fortunately, there doesn't seem to have been any misbehaving or anything at school.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Well, did you notice, in the weeks after December 7th, any issues or experiences or problems with the Caucasians in the valley? Did you hear anything about that?

MY: No. I think we were real lucky as far as the neighborhood was concerned and everything. And people would ask... there's this one Italian family, and it was probably like the Nisei marriages, you know, and this guy was probably, seemed like he was old enough to be his wife's mother and father. So when that happened, the boys had the gas station and so these kids would buy the oil by the case, and they would give it to them at a sale price. So then they told 'em, "Well, gee, why don't you leave your oil here and then you can come over and use the hoist and change your oil, you don't have to go lay in the mud or someplace and do that." So there were several kids that had bought several cases of oil and left them at the station. So this one family, he got mad and the boys, well, the oldest one was about George's age, so he was two years younger than I was. They came over to the station and said that, "We got to take our oil home." Said, "How come?" He said, "Well, my father said to bring the oil home, so we came to get the oil." And the boys just knew what was happening, so they just let 'em pack it up and take it home. (We never saw them again.)

>Then it was, when my dad, after we moved back there, then Dad and Mom was over there and they were trying to help us clean up the farm ground. Because it had gone wild over the years and they didn't take care of it. So Dad and Mom were there, and all of a sudden I looked and he's got company, and it's this Mr. Crispy. And I thought, "Well, you've got lots of guts, what are you doing here?" But then they didn't say anything. And so my dad was quite diplomatic, and he says, "Gosh, Mr. Crispy, I have to thank you for being so good to my family while I was gone." And he just kind of mumbled around and acknowledged him, but I thought, "I don't know how he could ever forget what he did that bothered us kids." It might have bothered his kids, too, but...

TI: So Mr. Crispy was the man who wanted his oil back.

MY: (No, the boys owned the Gilmore Gas Station and had an oil and gas distribution business before the war as well as Iseri Insurance.) And so that's the only thing that I really remember that really hit me. To think that they were no better than we were, they were an immigrant father and, you know, Nisei growing up, and that was, with boys, their boys, you know, they were second generation. And I thought, "You sure got a lot of guts. Just because your color is just right and I got picked on."

<End Segment 22> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Now, do you recall any special preparations? Eventually you would get the orders that you would have to leave. Do you recall any special preparations that you did for the house, the farm, the store?

MY: No, not really. My sister-in-law and I went to help register several groups of people from O'Brien and Kent and then our area. (Narr. note: Mom worked in the field until the day we left.)

TI: So describe that. I mean, to register, so these are the Issei you would help?

MY: Yeah, well, all the families, you know.

TI: So you'd go pick them up and bring 'em to...

MY: No, they found their way to wherever they were registered. But I says, "Gee whiz, we got to sit here and register these people to leave and we got to register ourselves?" By that time, I think we were all pretty tough. We knew what was gonna happen, so we just had to take what was coming.

TI: Well, for you to register, was this something that you were paid to do?

MY: No. It was all free.

TI: Oh, so you just volunteered to help out.

MY: Yeah.

TI: And why did you? Why did you decide to...

MY: I don't know. Just because... I don't know, because it was the right thing to do, I guess. Somebody had to do it.

TI: And you mentioned your sister-in-law, so this is Tom's wife?

MY: Yeah. Well, George's wife was there, too. George had just gotten married in November, November the 4th or something like that. And here this is December 7th, and we didn't know what was gonna happen. So they lived in Kent, across the bridge, which was beyond the limit for us, so we got them, and they packed up everything and we moved everything over to the house.

TI: When families came in to register, how did that, I mean, describe that. What happened when people registered?

MY: Well, I think you get to the point where, it was like they say, "Shikata ga nai," huh? You just got to go with the flow and hope the best comes out of it. And just resign yourself to what the consequences are, and what else can you do? There's 110,000 Japanese and how many million Caucasians, and if anybody wanted to raise a stink, well, what kind of chance to do you have against the rest of the population? And so...

TI: So it sounds like, in general, people just sort of went along with it, did what they had to do, and just...

MY: Hope that it turns out for the best. It's like this Caucasian family that lives next door, he was a retired railroad engineer, I mean, a conductor. And so Mom would be out there in the garden or something, and he'd come over and he'd say, "Hi, Mom, you're doing pretty good." He says, "These people should have a good look at you. They could never get rid of you when they come and watch you working." But nobody came, of course. He says, "They can't, they can't put you away anyplace." He says, "This place would fall apart," which it did eventually. So they were, a lot of them realized what, the actuality of the thing, and then there were the "anti-Japs" that were there, they didn't care what the consequence was going to be, they just, "Get 'em out of here." So, the ones that took over stuff, I guess they did pretty well that year. Because almost everything was ready to harvest by the time we were leaving. But then all went downhill because they didn't remember how to start next year.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: During this time, when people were getting ready to leave and preparing, do you recall any acts of kindness from the Caucasians to help people out or anything like that?

MY: Well, not really so much that... I think we were grateful that the neighborhood didn't turn on us, you know. And, in fact, there was this little, I think she was about six or seven years old, and she would come down and visit, and she'd start noticing that we're packing and everything, and said, "What are you doing?" And I said, "Oh, we're gonna, we got to go. We got to go to California." "What are you going to California for?" Of course, we just figured, what's the use of trying to explain to a little kid?" So, "Oh, just because they said we have to go." And she says, "Well, how come?" So I kept arguing with her, and then finally, I said, "Why don't you go with us?" And I knew right away I said the wrong thing. So she ran home, and then her mom and dad came down and said, "What did you tell..." what's her name now? Patty. And I said, "Well, she kept asking where we were going and why were we going, and why can't, why do we have to go, and so I told her to go with us." And he said, "Oh, boy," he said, "you sure started something. 'Cause she's all ready to pack and come down here to go with you." [Laughs] And so then when we had that first reunion, you know, Thomas reunion, here comes this girl, a Caucasian, she's quite big by now, and she had a couple of boys with her. And I said, she came and looked me up and said, "There you are." She said, "Here's that blue-eyed blonde that you were gonna take with you." And I said, "You've got to be kidding." [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so she remembered after all these years.

MY: Yeah.

TI: That she wanted to go with you.

MY: Yeah, she wanted to go with us. And I said, "But you can't go with us." "Why?" You know how kids are, a million questions to ask you. It maybe shielded... that's why I wanted this reunion to go. Because I figured that the thing that happened was that people that would come back to visit, or like we went back because Maki was in the service and the house was vacated, so we came back. But there's a lot of people that couldn't come back or wouldn't come back because of the laws that said the Isseis were, couldn't get citizenship. And there were only a handful of Niseis who were eligible to be a legal owner of property, you know.

TI: Right, so the alien land laws.

MY: Yeah, alien land laws.

TI: So this was a reunion after the war, so how many year reunion was it?

MY: Oh, I don't remember.

TI: But it was just to try to get the old community, prewar community back? But not just Japanese, but it sounded like the other neighbors showed up, too.

MY: Yeah. That's the thing that surprised the heck out of us, because, I don't know, it just seemed like half of 'em were hakujin, you know. And most of 'em didn't ask if they could come, they just came. And so I said, well, it makes you feel good to know that there's people out there that, you know, it kind of healed the community for us because then we knew that the majority of them, it wasn't their idea to get us out of there, but they were concerned about us. And so then when we had that reunion, then they came to acknowledge us. So we knew who our friends were. And I don't know if you know that Dan, Smith Brothers Dairy, he's the one that was a big educator, that his son was there. He came in and, he brought his family and came in, and he was visiting with everybody. So if the whole family was against that, they were for that...

TI: The removal and...

MY: Removal, they wouldn't have been there. But they came and they visited everybody and everything. And I thought, gosh almighty, that just really lets you know where the reputation of the Japanese Americans were, and how badly some of them felt. So some of us, we started working on it and we said, "Well, how many people we gonna figure on?" Said, "Well, how many can the church hold?"

TI: Do you remember what year that was, about, that you had the reunion?

MY: Gee, I don't know. It was ten... it's gotta be, I don't know, ten, twenty, fifteen years ago already.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Okay. I'm going to bring you now back to... so you're now, you're still in Thomas, and then you now leave. So can you tell us where you went from Thomas?

MY: We went to Pinedale.

TI: Which is located in Fresno.

MY: Yeah, outskirts of Fresno.

TI: And so what were your impressions of Pinedale when you got there?

MY: Oh, it was so hot. I passed out the first day, 'cause it was so hot. And I remember these two boys, this older boy was packing this little kid on his back, and he let him down, and he was barefooted, and he landed on the hot rocks. And he started screaming, you know, and I thought, "Holy cow, what did he do to that kid?" And then he was just stomping and jumping, and I said, "Oh, that poor kid." Says, "His brother or whoever that was just put him down to get the load off his back and he's burning his feet." And I thought, oh, man. I often think about it and wonder where that kid is, if he remembers it.

TI: So it was hot, but also Pinedale, you mentioned earlier, this is, your father, you had a reunion with your father. He was picked up on December 7th, eventually went to, I think, Fort Missoula, Montana, then he joined the family at Pinedale?

MY: Yeah, just before we left Pinedale to go to Tule Lake.

TI: So do you remember that reunion and what that was like?

MY: No, because I didn't know that he was coming back. All of a sudden I saw him coming toward the, toward the building, and I thought, "Holy cow." And apparently, Mom, George had gotten the information or something and told Mom, so she knew about it. I didn't know that he was coming back. That was a real thing, just seemed like it came out of the blue, you know. And so I think it was, I think it was more than a month, then we got transferred to Tule Lake.

TI: But how was your father returning? Did he seem the same, or was there any difference?

MY: Huh?

TI: Were there any changes with your father? Was he the same, or how would you...

MY: Well, he was real quiet, he never said much anymore. Just... I don't know what he was thinking. He never, never ever said anything about anybody being unjust to him. After all, he tried to -- he never, ever mentioned how hard he worked to try to get the PTA going and have them get together and make a good community. (Narr. note: In 1928, he helped organize the Japanese American PTA, checking national records, the only one in the U.S. His part's on the first page of the Washington State 100th Anniversary.)

TI: So do you sense that he changed? I mean, you said he got quiet, so do you think he was different after?

MY: Yeah. He was, he wasn't the jolly old chubby, fat man that he used to be. [Laughs] He was more serious about things.

TI: And so he never really, but he never really talked about it.

MY: No, he never really talked about it, and I figured, well, he probably doesn't want to talk about it, doesn't even want to think about it. So I thought, "Well, I'm not gonna push it."

<End Segment 25> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Now, in terms of your family unit, when you went to Pinedale, how many were you? Because I know some of your older brothers had their own families. So how, what was your living arrangements at Pinedale?

MY: Well, I don't remember how many, how many was assigned to a room, but I remember that Dad's cousin lived with us, and my mom said, "Well, since bachelors sign up separately," she said, "you better sign up as part of the family because," she says, "in the situation that we're in now, we don't know what's gonna happen. So he's a bachelor, he doesn't have any other relatives, and if he gets separated from us, what's gonna happen?" So she said, "Just sign him up as part of our family and if they object, then we can always change it." So he went with us, and he got one of these metal cots. We got those canvas cots, and he had a metal cot. It was so hot that he couldn't get cooled off. And I can just, I can still see him: "How come they can treat an old man like that?" But he was so hot that he didn't know how to get cool, and he was laying on that asphalt thinking that that would cool him off, but that was worse than being out in the weeds. It was hotter and just reflected the heat. And so I thought, "Gee, whiz," that's why I realized more what was happening to that little kid, that big brother put him down on that concrete or asphalt. But I don't know, it just seemed like every once in a while, you think of something else.

TI: Well, during your time at Pinedale, what did you do to pass the time? Did you have a job?

MY: Yeah, I got a job as a preschool, preschool attendant. So that was kind of fun. The little kids would come around the door, you know, and sneak in the door and holler and this and that. And then this, this one boy from Seattle, I can't think of his name now, but he was slightly retarded. And so he would act kind of goofy, so these kids would... well, they have a notion of picking on a kid 'cause he can't fight back or something, I guess. And so they started teasing him. So that's the first time I sat all those kids down and I said, "Did you see what happened out there?" And they said, "Yeah, well, that guy's crazy." I said, "Well, do you know who he is?" "No." I says, "What if that was your brother?" And they said, they just got quiet and looked at me. I said, "If that was your brother and a bunch of kids came and picked on him like that and teased them," said, "what would you think?" And they said, "Well, that wouldn't be very nice," and they had different opinions. And I thought, well, it's too bad it has to be this way, but at least they learned something from an uneducated kindergarten teacher, you know. But I thought, "Oh, man, kids could be so cruel." And I think, if I'm not mistaken, that guy, the brother to this guy committed suicide, he was from Seattle. But he was the older one, and he, and so I thought, god, what kind of life must he have had to try to defend his brother all these years? And I thought, well, I guess I opened my mouth to those kids, but I hope some of 'em, one or two of 'em remember that. Because they don't know, they just watch what other kids do and do what they do. And right or wrong, they're gonna follow through. So I thought, well...

TI: Yeah, as you were saying that, it just made me think about how, when you go from, sort of, a home where you're, you have a small nuclear family... what's the right word? It's like more things are not seen. But when you live all together like that, and how everything just sort of is more laid bare. It's hard to, probably things come up that maybe not come up before.

MY: Yeah, we were poor, but at least we managed when we had those bad times, or have anybody be ornery or nasty or anything.

TI: Well, so after Pinedale, you then moved to Tule Lake. So what were your first impressions of Tule Lake?

MY: That wasn't much better, I'll say that. [Laughs]

TI: But it was a little cooler, wasn't it?

MY: It was hot. It was hot.

TI: It was still, Tule Lake was hot?

MY: Yeah, yeah. So I got another job taking care of preschool kids.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: But in addition to your job, I'm thinking, you got married when you were at Tule Lake. So describe, how would you have a courtship at Tule Lake?

MY: Oh, gosh, I don't know, go into the mess hall and the guy, the crew would usually... he was a steward, mess steward, whatever they call it. And so then after everybody got through eating and stuff, then they would clean up and everything. And the guys started playing poker. And so then they would stay there 'til about ten o'clock playing poker every night. So I just, I didn't know anything about poker, anything like that. So we just sat around and watched them play poker and things like that. Once in a while they had those, Tule Lake had the open air entertainment and things like that, and then right outside our door, the, what do you call it, windbreak or whatever they called it, right straight down from where we lived, the Sacramento people lived. And they were always agitating, you know. So pretty soon we could hear the banging on the dishpans and stuff and they said, "Oh, there goes Sacramento again," you know. And I know that for a while, one of the guys that George worked with was scared to go home. He was afraid to go home because he was from Sacramento. So he stayed with George and Dixie for a while. I don't know what happened to him, but I thought, god, that must be scary to have be afraid of your own kind of people.

TI: Going back to your husband, or husband-to-be, when did you first start dating? Was this back in Thomas?

MY: Oh, well, it was, they had moved from Sumner to Auburn, so we were running around together since we were sophomores in high school.

TI: And what was his name?

MY: Huh?

TI: What was his name?

MY: Maki, M-A-K-I.

TI: Maki Yamada. And how did you guys decide to get married?

MY: I don't know, we just did, and then Reverend Naito was from Sacramento, so we got married that way, no fancy dress or anything, wearing my cotton dress, everyday after-work clothes. [Laughs]

TI: And so where did you get married?

MY: In Tule Lake.

TI: But which facility did you...

MY: Oh, I think it was Reverend Naito's barrack. I don't remember where it was now.

TI: And then after you get married, was there any kind of honeymoon or anything, or what happened after you got married?

MY: No, no. We lived at home, and then it wasn't too long after that, they started talking about relocating and stuff. Well, then my oldest brother had a produce business, and they were, he got sent to Minidoka so that his wife could help him clean up the business that he was leaving behind. And then, so then celery season came around, and they needed harvesters for celery in Weiser, Idaho. And so Tom got a hold of George or Mun or somebody, and he wanted him to recruit some help. And so they decided, well, I don't remember how many people they allowed in, but he recruited a bunch to go to Weiser. And then the next thing you know, Tom had written and told the folks, he says, well, he didn't know if that was, would be a good idea, but there's this opportunity, that he's got to help some people get out of the camp to start the life over again. So says, "Do you want to come and see if you could find a farm to work on or something?" Then he says, "I'll put in an application." So then we just all jumped on the wagon.

TI: So this is kind of the Ontario, Oregon, area?

MY: Idaho, Weiser, Idaho. It's about 20 miles from Ontario.

TI: Okay. So to get out and work on the farms. Okay, but going back to, I'm just curious in terms of ceremonies like weddings in camp. So after you were married, did you guys have like a little party? Did they have a reception for you or anything like that?

MY: No, nothing.

TI: So it's so different than the weddings you see today where...

MY: Oh, gosh, yeah. Just plain old housedress and Reverend Naito. Still have a picture, I don't know what it is, character or anything, but he did brush painting, and I still have that.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MY: So then the women got, the guys worked out on the farms and started working on the orchards there, orchards out there.

TI: And this is, I'm sorry, Weiser, Idaho?

MY: Yeah.

TI: Okay.

MY: And they started working out there, and then this camp was Camp Churchill. And this lady, she was an old lady like you read in the mystery books, tall and lanky and had gray hair, mixed color hair, she had it all brushed up here. And first thing that we found out was that she had 15-amp bulbs in the light sockets. So then we go to shopping, go get groceries or something, and we'd buy the 45 or 70 watts and bring it home and stick in there. And by god, she would find out right away and she'd come over with her 15 watt and put it back in there. And she said, "I don't want you to change the light bulbs." And so I thought, "Holy cow." And she brags about being related to Churchill, I thought, "I wonder what kind of life they're living." [Laughs]

TI: And she was just concerned about the cost of the electricity to run those things?

MY: Yeah.

TI: So I'm, so you were married, and in my notes I have that you had two children fairly soon?

MY: Yeah, I had Doug and... well, we were out of camp by then. And Ontario had a maternity home, and some of them would laugh and say, "Well, somebody had a kid at the hatchery." [Laughs]

TI: That's what they would call the maternity home, the hatchery?

MY: Yeah, called it the hatchery.

TI: And this was Ontario, Oregon, you're talking about.

MY: Yeah.

TI: So...

MY: So the boys were, both the boys were born there. And then Lou was born over here, right across from the mobile homes where I'm living now.

TI: So describe how you went from Weiser to Ontario, Oregon. What was the connection there?

MY: Well, it was, Ontario was a bigger town, and Tom had a chance to expand his business, so he found a bigger place to operate. And so we moved into this mobile home like Churchhill's campgrounds. And I don't remember how many cabins there were, but we filled 'em up. It was pretty bad because all she would let us have is our 15-watt bulbs and a two-burner... what do you call those? Camp stoves?

TI: Camp stoves, right. And this initially was to help work on her farm?

MY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: And how many Japanese were...

MY: I don't know, but I think that camp was... let me see. I don't, really don't remember whether, how many units there were. But we'd go to town maybe once a week or something and never had any trouble. But it was interesting because they were so far behind the times. This one store we went into was like walking into a movie lot, and it had these lanterns hanging from the ceiling. And what struck me was when we were kids, reading a book about the feather beds, and they had feather beds out there to sell. And I said, "For crying out loud," and they said, "Well, you just go jump in there and you get lost," because it's so fluffy and nice. And I said, "Well, that would be nice to sleep in," but I said, "Holy cow, never thought I'd see anything like that." And they had the buckets and all those things hanging from the ceiling. It was a typical, typical old pioneer days store. And they were very good to us, and we were lucky that way, that people were very good to us.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So from Ontario, when did you go back to Auburn, and why did you go back to Auburn?

MY: Well, because... let's see, how was that anyway? Maki was drafted about a year, little after a year after the second one was born. So I found out that people in the house was leaving, and so I asked my mom if I could take the kids and go back, and she said, "Well, whatever you want to do, go ahead." So packed the kids up and came back over here.

TI: Okay, so let me make sure, so your husband was drafted after the second one, so you, and you heard that the people in the house in Thomas were leaving. So you asked your mom -- and where was your mom when you asked her? Where was she?

MY: My mom? In Tule Lake.

TI: So they're still Tule Lake, had not left yet. And so you went to the house with... so just you and two young children?

MY: Uh-huh.

TI: And so what was it like when you got to the house?

MY: Well, I think I was real lucky that I had my brothers to support me all the time, you know. And George, he was working on one of these farms, so he had a truck. And he said, "Well," he says, "I've got a truck," so he says, "I can load up your stuff and take you back." And they gave me twenty-five dollars for moving expenses. [Laughs]

TI: But you had your brothers to help you.

MY: Yeah. I don't know how I would have done it if I didn't have...

TI: So your brother George had a truck, all your belongings, and he drove you to the house. And what was the condition of the house, the farm, all that?

MY: Oh, man. It scared me to death because there were rats as big as a cat running through the house. I'm not kidding you, I've never seen anything like that before in my life. And so the closet doors and things that were shut against the wall, all the bottom corners were all chewed out, the rats had chewed it out. And so we had to get rid of them.

TI: And when you say, "we," so your brother was there to help you?

MY: Yeah. Then my mom and dad came over and stayed for a couple weeks and helped me get settled. And so we got along pretty good. But then, of course, we didn't know what it was to be like that. But I had made the jump, so there was no turning back.

TI: And how about neighbors? Were the neighbors very helpful, or what was the reaction of neighbors when you got back?

MY: Well, they were pretty good, because like I said before, all these farms are usually on a big ranch and they're broken up into small plots. But we sat on this 2 and a half acres that my dad had bought. And so all the neighbors were the same Caucasian neighbors that were there when we left. So we didn't have any problem getting acquainted or anything like that. And they would offer me their sewing machine and washer or whatever, they were real helpful. So we were lucky like that at that point.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: There's one other thing I wanted to touch upon, and that was your older brother Mike. Your brother Mike volunteered for the service, and can you tell me what happened to him?

MY: Well, as soon as, as soon as the war broke out and Dad got picked up, so he came home and he says, "I'm volunteering." And he says, "You take care of the folks," you know, he told George, he says, "You just got married," and he says, "if I don't go, I'm still single, and I don't go, then you can be drafted right away." So he says, "You promise to take care of Dad and Mom, I'm volunteering." So he volunteered, but he had bad sinus problems, I guess, and they wouldn't take him. So he had to get doctored up for that, and then he, so he left in February of '43, '43, I guess. And so Dad and Mom came back when we moved back, and my husband used the truck and then my dad drove George's car and drove us back over here. And then George went right back, and then Mom and Dad stayed about ten days and helped me get things squared away.

TI: But going back to your brother, Mike, so he volunteered and he joined the 442nd.

MY: Well, I think it was before the 442 was...

TI: Okay, even before they were formed. But eventually was attached to the 442 and went to Europe with the 442. And what happened to Mike?

MY: Well, he was, I'm trying to remember, it was Company D, 442nd. And so it wasn't too long before he was, well, had to be a little while because he died in end of October during that "Lost Battalion" deal. I just, I don't think I would want to relive that again. Because my sister-in-law lived with us in Ontario. And she would wrap up a package every day and send it, and write one or two letters every day and send it. And, of course, she helped me with the kids and everything. And then she was at work when they brought the telegram to her at work. And then it seemed like the whole world fell apart. She said, "If I'd have worried a little bit more, he wouldn't have got killed." And then she'd say, "Well, I think Mike's still alive, but he's got amnesia and he's roaming around those woods over there." And she just used excuses and excuses, and I couldn't tell her, "No, he's gone," I couldn't tell her that. And so then she'd spoil the kids and do things for them and buy clothes for them and everything. And so the older one discovered rings. So she'd take the rings off and let him play with it. And I said, "Al, you do that," and I says, "he's gonna lose it someplace, and then what are you gonna do?" So she went downtown and bought him a signet ring so he'd have his own ring. So he's still got that ring. I said, "You're lucky Auntie (Alice) bought you such a nice ring when you could hardly walk." He said, "Yeah." In the meantime, he had bitten into it and broke the joint, so he had to get it fixed. But things like that. And she'd keep saying, "Well," she says, "if I just worried a little bit more, I think Mike would have been okay." But she said, "I couldn't believe it would happen to me, and that's what happened, because I didn't worry enough." And then I don't know how long it was after that, then the packages and the mail started coming back, and that was a pain all over again. And I thought, oh, if I'd have known that, I wouldn't have destroyed 'em, but I would have hidden 'em someplace where, give a little time for her to recover and then give 'em to her. I wouldn't have thrown 'em away, but I wish I'd known, because then I would have put 'em together and put 'em away someplace for a while. And then she started losing her hair in great big clumps like this, so great big bald spots all over her head. It just looked like somebody had shaved it. That was something I hope never, anybody ever has to go through.

>(...) She went to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Then about that time, my brother, younger brother Oscar was, had gone through with his time in the army, and he came back from Japan. She said, "Well, if Oscar's gonna go to school back there," she says, "maybe I'll go hang out with him." So she packed up and went to Ohio, too, got a degree, and she taught nursery school in Seattle for quite a while.

TI: This is Mike's widow.

MY: Yeah. And then, well, she eventually married, and she married another soldier, ex-GI. And she was always close to the family, and they were coming over, going to Ontario for my mother's birthday, I don't remember what birthday it was, but around the winter for her birthday, Thanksgiving or something, and got in an automobile accident. So her husband was paralyzed.

TI: How tragic. What a difficult life.

MY: So at least she had gained a family, and she had two daughters, and she got to have her own family. And so it's funny how that works out, but when my boys got married, they said, "Mom, what can I take to Auntie Al?" And I said, "What do you mean? Just go see her." And he said, "Well, I want to," they want to take the girls, you know, to introduce her to the bride-to-be, but they didn't know how to do it. So I said, "Well, okay then." Maki was working in the Stokeley Van de Kamp freezing plant, so we'd have frozen foods from time to time. Said, "Take this and go over there, 'cause then you can't put it off. If you mess around, it's gonna melt." Said, "Take this and go see Auntie Al." And Auntie Al says, "That was so cute for them to remember and come and see me that way." So she was always close to the kids and everything. Then she was coming over and was in an automobile accident, killed her husband.

TI: Wow, that's... so, Mae, thank you for sharing all that.

MY: No, he didn't get killed, but he was paralyzed.

TI: You mentioned earlier, did your parents, after the war, live in Ontario, or did they come back to Auburn?

MY: No, they lived in Ontario.

TI: So they stayed? Why did your parents decide to live in Ontario and not come back to...

MY: Well, I don't know. I think kind of like, like George says, "Well, they didn't want us around here, so they treat us real good over there." They never told me any of that when I said I was gonna come back, they just maybe let me make up my own mind what I wanted to do. But it's an experience you never forget, but the one that you never want to go through again, you know.

TI: Yeah, that's difficult.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: So, Mae, we've gone over, well over two hours, and so I kind of want to bring the interview to an end. Is there anything else that you want to talk about before we end?

MY: No. I just think for myself, we were very lucky in that we lived among Caucasians as well as Japanese and treated quite well. Like even coming back to school, I think, let's see, Al was, I don't remember what grade he was in, but anyway, came back to the Thomas school, and the principal was the same principal that was there when we left, and she was very good to the Japanese. And so he came home one day and he said, "Mom," he says, "this one guy kept bugging me today," and I said, "What did you do?" And he said, "Well, they had the..." the Thomas school auditorium isn't very big. And so when they have their basketball games and stuff, they have to let the kids stand on the platform in order to watch. So we were up there on the stage and watching, and he said, "This kid kept nudging me and kept saying, 'What are you?'" And he says, "I just kind of had a feeling I knew what he was talking about, so I ignored him." And so he was, that bugged him, and he came home and he was telling me about it. And so I knew how much work Dad had done for PTA and how much the Japanese farmers contributed for hot lunches and everything. And so I went and I wrote her a note and told Al to give it to Mrs. Curry, and maybe she'll tell me to come and see her sometime. So I did that, and then sure enough, she called me and asked me if I could come in. So I went in first thing in the morning before school started, and she says, "I'll call Al, I want to talk to Al." So she called in, and she talked to him and she says, "You go find that guy." So he went out to the playground and found this kid and brought him in. And he says, "Do you know what you did?" And he said, "No." So she said, "Okay, I'll remind you what you did. You stand over there and you stand in front of Al and you apologize to him for what you did." And so she told, she said, "I want to, I want to hear you apologize to him, and I don't want to hear another word about 'Jap' or anything like that." Says, "Japanese are the ones that started the soup program and donated all the vegetables, and they hired a cook." They said, "Well, we can, for three cents a day for every student that wants it, they can have soup for lunch, and that'll pay for the cook's wages." Stuff like that. So we've been quite lucky with having the neighborhood with us, getting along with the people.

TI: Well, your appreciation really shows, because I know you do a lot for the community, you volunteer a lot, so I could tell that.

MY: Yeah, I figure, I don't know. Somebody told me, he says, "Well, you sure put in a lot of time going to schools and stuff. And I says, "Well," I says, "I don't know how many other people will do it," but I says, "if I get asked, I go." In fact, I said, I went to one Kent junior high school class, and they were big guys, you know. Of course, I'm not big, that tall or anything, so they could walk right over me. [Laughs] But there's this bunch of boys and they seemed like they were older and bigger than normal. And they kept talking and teasing each other and this and that, and I just got mad and finally I spoke up and I says, "You know what I'm here for?" I said, "I didn't ask to come here." I said, "Your teacher asked me to come and that's why I'm here." And I says, "I'll take questions from you and everything and tell you what I know," but says, "If this is all the attention I'm going to get, either you leave or I'm leaving." I said, "One of us is leaving." And so the teacher got up and apologized, and he told the boys, "You apologize to Mrs. Yamada for your manners." And I felt real good. I thought maybe I'd feel bad about it, but I didn't. Because I figured I was there to do what I was supposed to do, and then for kids like we were talking, they don't know. They don't know what happened, they just heard what they wanted to and they passed it on, just like they used to say, "Get rid of the Japs," and that was it. But I said, "There's a lot more to it than that." So I says, "Either you leave or I'm leaving right now," because I said, "I didn't ask to come here."

TI: That's a good story. And thank you for taking that time. I think it's so powerful when you as a person go to these places.

MY: Yeah. Well, there's probably people that have more physical abuse than that, but I just consider myself lucky. 'Cause I had, my dad, especially, had the chance to contribute to the community so that it reflected back for us to be able to say, "Well, what could 110,000 'Japs' do against the whole U.S. government?" and that's what it was. But I said, "It's thanks to people like our parents who worked hard to gaman and take what was handed to them and make the best of it, you know."

TI: Well, I think that's a great way to end the interview. So thank you, Mae, for doing that.

MY: [Laughs] I hope it made some sense and you could use some of it.

TI: No, this was good. You had some really, really powerful stories in there.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.